Check out the latest from Always In Your Corner about fitness, nutrition and training for seniors.
Fitness tracking is now a part of modern life. Steps and even miles covered can be tracked on our phones by GPS.
There are also more sophisticated fit watches that track things like calories burned, sleep cycles and even your Vo2 max.
To track your daily steps is probably a very good idea, especially if you have set a specific step goal.
Not so sure about tracking your sleep cycles though. Wouldn’t it be stressful to check your sleep stats in the morning and find out that your sleep quality was very low?
I think you have to find the right balance in fitness tracking and only focus on things that are beneficial.
It’ a bit like weighing yourself and getting really stressed about your weight on the scale.It is not really useful as body weight mostly reflects hydration. Our bodies are 60-70% water and when you lose a kilo or gain one it is mostly going to be water.
Personally I use a Body Matrix which is an ultra sound scanner that measures body fat, I do a scan every 10 weeks or so just to make sure I stay on track. This does not add any stress to my life. I must say that at one point it did. A few years ago I sort of lost track of myself. I was injured and I couldn’t do my runs and we had a lockdown.Tis resulted in mr gaining a bit of weight mostly from boredom. Then I stopped doing the scans and my scanner gathered dust in a cupboard.
So the fitness watches that measure calorie expenditure they might be a good idea if they motivate you. You feel good after getting a notification telling you that you have burned 400 calories in an hour. You need to bear in mind though that these estimates are very inaccurate. The error margins are roughly 20-30 % and the calories burned will be overestimated.
I use a Garmin myself to track my miles that I run and my pace, The miles run has an error margin of about 10%. I never pay any attention to how many caloriesI have burned.
What is going to be the next big thing is glucose monitoring on your mobile phone. This technology will soon be available.
There is a company called Zoe that offer a weight loss programme, they actually provide glucose monitors to people who join their programme. They claim that monitoring your glucose can personalise your nutrition.
Basically if you eat something that spikes your insulin then it’s a good idea to avoid this food.
The interesting thing is that if you eat a parsnip that will spike your insulin because a parsnip has got a very high GI. Perhaps we should stick to bacon and eggs to keep our insulin levels low?
The fact is that glucose monitoring is a complete waste of time unless you are a type 1 diabetic.As long as your glucose levels are in a healthy range, fluctuations will not have any negative impact on your health or ability to lose weight.
Zoe have even changed the term for a rise in glucose. They call it a spike, the correct term is an excursion.I am quite sure they are aware of this but personalised nutrition will probably sell better that a weight loss programme.
After all they do need as many people to join their programme as possible otherwise it won’t do any good.
In conclusion fitness tracking can be useful if it motivates you but if it adds stress to your life probably not.
ByAbdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton.
Apparently obesity is on the rise. The government are very alarmed about this as it will cost the NHS lots of money.
Over the past few years it’s been a top priority to get obesity rates down as it not only is a huge cost involved in medical care but it is also shortening our life expectancy.
The fact is some children who will be born in 2024 will become obese already as toddlers and growing up with metabolic issues and by the time they reach 25 years old might be close to the end of their life as they will be suffering from diabets and other really serious health conditions that go hand in hand with obesity.
It is estimated that over half of the population is overweight or even obese.
What is going on?
I was born in 1965 and I don’t recall seeing many xxxl people in my childhood and even in my adolescence.
This observation is actually correct as things started to change in the eighties. That is when obesity started to be common and since then it has accelerated.
So why did this happen?
Weight will be gained if you consume more than you use.
So did people stop exercising in the eighties?
So back in the eighties gyms were’t really a thing. They were there and we had a few Arnold wannabes attending but it was nowhere near as popular as gyms are now.
I work as a personal trainer. Back in the eighties this profession wasn’t even invented.Personal training only started around year 2000.
So were people doing more sports?
Hard to say really but if you look around you, I live in Loughton and we have about 7-8 gyms in our local area. Two new ones have just opened in the last few weeks. We got 3-4 athletic club locally, there is five a side football. The newest gym that opened in Debden has even got a basketball court. We have the park run in Roding fields every Saturday.
I really don’t believe physical activity has declined since the eighties.
What else could it be then?
Is it willpower? Did everyone just lose their willpower in the eighties?
A lot of xxl people blame genetics. They will tell you our parents were large we are large and now our children are large is’s in our genes.
Is it something in the environment? Or in the tap water?
Why are we all gaining weight?
I have one explanation and I believe I am right.
It’s all the ultra processed foods.
Ultra processed foods were there even in my childhood. I remember corn flakes for breakfast and 33cc bottles of Coca Cola.
So ultra processed foods were there but not at the level where we are now.
The United Kingdom has the highest consumption of Ultra Processed food in Europe. 58% of what we consume is convenience food and this is where the problem lies.
A lot of times we don’t realise that we are eating ultra processed foods as they are so common. This is also fuelled by slick marketing. The food industry are blaming lacka of exercise. You can drink a 2 litre bottle of fizzy drink as long as you go gyn and burn it off is their logic. Then you can eat your food from boxes.
So if you are looking to make a difference to your body weight in 2024, this is where you need to start.
Have a look at all the ultra processed foods you are consuming and if possible try to make some changes.
It does not have to be complicated.
Before you eat something ask yourself this question, did this food grow, run or swim.
So obviously bread don’t grow on trees.
Some processing is ok. For example cheese. It’s processed but not often ultra processed. A food that contains 7-8 ingredients is most probably ultra processed.
So eating whole foods does require a bit more time in the kitchen but I would say it’s time well spent as you could add years to your life if you became a bit leaner.
I can give you an example of an action that you can take. Breakfast cereals are ultra processed.
Just make your own one, a couple of times a week put some jumbo Oates on a tray. Use honey, cinnamon, cacao powder and a little coconut oil mixed together and give it 20-30 minutes to bake. If you want to add other ingredients be my guest. Coconut flakes or nuts, you decide?
We are near Christmas now. Try to be creative. Go on Google and lear new methods of preparing the treats that would normally be ultra processed. Don’t forget the mince pies.
By: Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton.
In the United Kingdom ultra processed foods are consumed more than in any other country in Europe.
58% of all calories consumed are from ultra processed foods.Ultra processed foods started to gain popularity in the eighties and incidentally this is when obesity also got more common.
I was born in 1965 and I grew up in the seventies.Back then obesity was’t very common.
In this day and age it’s a different story. Just look around you. Anywhere you go you will find that overweight/obese people now are a majority.
So what defines an ultra processed item of food?
In essence if an item contains a high number of ingredients then it is ultra processed.
Are the ingredients harmful any way?
Probably not but generally the number of nutrients that you get per calorie will be less if you opt for ultra processed foods.
Therefore it’s always better to choose whole foods and spend a bit more time in preparing them, especially if you are looking to lose weight.
A few years ago someone reached out to me asking for advice. She said she was only eating whole foods and she was still finding it really hard to keep the weight off.
I asked her for a food diary.
So her breakfast was Weetabix, a sandwich for lunch and on most afternoons she would eat some kind of an ultra processed snack.
So I told her neither Weetabix nor bread are whole foods so a large chunk of her daily calorie consumption do actually come from ultra processed foods. And the packet of crisps in the afternoon it's not like she is eating boiled potatoes.
She disagreed, she told me that Weetabix comes from highest quality wheat and that it’s even sold at Holland and Barret.
The bottomline is that a lot of people consume more ultra processed foods than they think because they are so common.
Surely if you are looking to maintain a healthy weight it would be a good idea to start looking at your consumption of ultra processed foods.
The less you eat the better.
By: Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton
At one point in your life you are going to have to make a decision on how you are going to live your life as you age.
Many things are in our own hands. If you look after yourself by eating well, sleeping well and moderate exercise then your chances of staying healthy as you growl older are much greater.
What are you looking forward to in the years to come?
I have got 3 myself. My last one was born on April Fool’s day this year.
You wanna travel the world or go on a hike in the mountains?
None of this is gonna be possible if you don’t have your health.
I have got 3 grandchildren. I can decide what I want to do or be able to do.
Sit on a sofa and talk to them, sit on the floor and build lego or take them out and explore.
I have got great memories of my grand dad taking me on a skiing trip in the alps. He must have been in his mid sixties then. Imagine how much energy you would need to go up ski lifts and ski down the hill for 7-8 hours?
My grand mother actually lived until she was a 103 years old and on her last day she still walked to to the breakfast room all by herself.
Independence is something that is so important. I can’t think of anything worse than having to depend on other people?
So how hard is it to stay fit?
I personally spend about 2 and a half hours to three hours every week and I do consider myself to be in good shape. In fact I can run faster and lift heavier than many people half my age.
How about my food?
I practise something called JERF. (Just eat real food).
Most of us are aware that ultra processed foods are no good for us son I have made the decision to stay away.
I also make sure I get 8 hours sleep and I also practise time restricted eating. I give myself a rest from food for about 16 hours every day. I can still drink water, tea and coffee during those 16 hours.
I would actually love to help you as well if you are looking to invest in yourself for your future.
I have been helping seniors fro get fit and healthy or over 20 years now.
Drop me a message if you are ready to take action?
By;Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton.
In 2022 I needed to lose a bit of weight. My daughter was getting married and I wanted to wear a suit that I bought in 1992.
The action I took was to just eat one meal a day. It worked, six weeks later I could wear my suit again. I bought this suit when I finished university.
Eating just once a day wasn’t really sustainable so after the wedding I decided to have a go at TRE.(Time restricted eating0 I was really kind to myself. For the first six months I ate for 12 hours a day and fasted for 12 hours( Overnight).
I did realise some benefits. I slept better, I felt better overall but the biggest surprise was how easy it was.
Yeah and my weight kept on going down effortlessly.
A little background. Years ago some mice in a lab were fed a diet of junk food. One group were on TRE and the other group weren’t.
So the group who weren’t on TRE developed lots of health problems and surprisingly the ones who were on TRE didn’t. They didn’t even gain weight.
Imagen the excitement. The scientists thought they had unlocked the secret to weight loss. Sadly mice aren’t people. When this experiment was carried out on people the differences were only marginal.
Mice in laboratories only live for about 2 years so if you fast them for 16 hours that might be equivalent to a year of fasting for a human being.
The research has continued and in 2018 a Japanese scientist called Yoshinori Ohsumi, received the Nobel price for his research on something called autophagy which in essence means cell recycling.
So there is lots of research going on about TRE and there are many signs that it is very good for our health.Some studies have even been conducted on people recovering from cancer. There are even some indications that TRE could prevent you from cancer.
So about 11 months ago I decided to take TRE to the next level. I now fast for 16-17 hours on most days. I normally eat my last meal of the day at around 3 PM. When I wake up I normally drink black coffee and I have my first meal of the day at around 10 AM.
I am not finding this hard at all and best of all it really works well. I am nearly 59 years old and I was getting a bit flabby. Well now I am all ripped and I haven’t made any other changes. My training is still the same. 3 hours of exercise per week.
If I want to eat a late meal one day then I can easily adjust by delaying my breakfast the next day.
I feel great. Hands down TRE is the best thing I have ever done in my life.
By: Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton.
Hands down the most reliable body fat scan is a DEXA scan. I have actually had one done at University of Westminster. I used to have students from the Nutrition programmes doing work shadows on me and as a sign of gratitude I was called in to do a DEXA scan.
The big disadvantage of DEXA scans is the cost.A DEXA scan is probably priced in the region of several hundred pounds.
I use a body fat scanner called Bodymetrix. This is what is defined as a second generation body fat scanners and much more reliable than scanners that use electrical currents to scan for body fat.
A Bodymetrix actually uses ultrasound to scan your tissue. The scan determines the composition of your tissue and it gives you a reading for body fat, muscle tissue and water.
By using the scanner on your body you can actually calculate your body fat %. Men and women have slightly different measure points. Men do their thighs, chest and waist whereas women measure triceps, waist and hip.
So what is the benefit of scanning your body fat?
I would say it’s a good reference point. It will basically tell you if your training and nutrition is going in the right direction.
Personally I find that it motivates me to stay on track. I try to scan myself every six weeks.
I actually stopped scanning myself a few years back when my results started to go the wrong way. Then my daughter was getting married and I wanted to wear a suit which I bought over 30 years ago.
I took action about a year and a half ago and now I am back scanning myself again every six weeks.
If you believe that a Bodymetrix scan would be useful for yourself don’t hesitate to drop me a line and we will get you booked in for a scan.
By: Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton
Reducing body fat is a very difficult task.
In fact this will never happen unless you have a strategic plan and implement this plan.
There are many people who stay fit and healthy through exercise and healthy eating.This is brilliant as being healthy is probably the most important thing.They aren’t however; losing body fat. They might carry a bit of excess fat even though they are really healthy and they might even be gaining a bit more fat over the years and still be healthy.
In order to lose body fat a strategic plan is needed.
I am going to use the Rumble in the jungle as an analogy. This was back in 1974 when Mohammed Ali took on George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire.
Ali at the time was a massive underdog. Foreman was at the time knocking out most of his opponents including Frazier who once beat Ali. Foreman was a really dangerous opponent and he possessed massive power.
Ali had his strategic plan in place however, he had looked into his strengths and had figured out how he was going to conquer Foreman.
Ali believed he was mentally stronger than Foreman. He was also more experienced and was probably fitter than Foreman.
At the beginning of the fight Ali humiliated Foreman by hitting him with some lead backhands. In boxing conventionally you are meant to set your opponent up with your front hand then try to hit him with the back hand. Ali did the complete opposite. All this was part of his plan, Ali knew that if he could wind Foreman up this would drain him of energy.
Next thing, Ali went to the ropes, the famous ropa dope and stayed there for the next 8 rounds. Foreman kept pounding Ali with punches som e which very blocked or partially blocked by Ali and all along Ali kept taunting Foreman by speaking to him.
Most people thought it was only a matter of time before Ali would be knocked out as Foreman was a devastating puncher.
Well, then out of nowhere Ali came off the ropes and finished Foreman with an explosive combination of punches.
So without a strategic plan fat loss is not going to happen. You will need to come up with some actions and stick to them. It doesn’t have to be rocket science and there are no rights or wrongs.
The most important thing is that it is something that suits you in the long run so that you can stick with the plan.
By: Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton.
I would say getting physically active is a good idea if you want to increase your life satisfaction not only at present but also as your age progresses.
Obviously there are no guarantees when it comes to what the future will bring to us but as a way of preventing metabolic syndrome exercis and also nutrition are key factors.
For those of you who don’t know what metabolic syndrome is; it’s when you tick some boxes for conditions that are mostly life style related.
The list is as follows; high blood pressure, insulin resistant, fatty liver, high triglycerides and high levels of LDL cholesterol.
If you don’t look after yourself metabolic syndrome is a very likely outcome. Let’s say your food consistes mainly of ultra processed foods, you drink too much alcohol and the combination of not moving enough this is what could be next for you.
The worst thing of all is that once you have metabolic syndrome you are at a high risk not only for cardiovascular disease and stroke but sadly cancer as well.
Worst of all you are also at a much higher risk of developing dementia. The really scary thing about dementia is that it can be neither prevented nor treated. Many people would actually rather take the heart attack or cancer than ending their lives with dementia.
Getting physically active will most likely add to your longevity. You could add years orre even decades to your life by getting in shape and also by trying to improve your food choices.
The minimum exercise you can do is brisk walking or any other activity that you enjoy that will raise your heart rate.
You could even have some benefits if you only take 30 minutes out of your day, this could even be in portions (exercise snacking).
I do consider myself to be reasonably fit and I only spend two and a half hours to three hours on formal workouts. I do walk and cycle quite a lot and I have a physical job so that comes on top.
Weight bearing exercises are really important especially as we get older and our muscle tissue wastes away. Without any intervention your life quality will decrease when everyday tasks such as getting up from seated becomes really difficult.
You don’t need to do a lot 2-3 hours a week should be sufficient and it’s probably a good idea to take a bit more time cooking your meals from scratch rather that ultra processed foods and take aways.
By:Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton
More recently some companies have started offering Microbiome tests as a way of personalising your nutrition.
Your microbiome is very relevant to the way you absorb your nutrients. As a matter of a diet high in fruit, vegetables and legumes in large variety is really the key to good gut bacteria.
Now we have companies asking you to send them your poo and they will tell you what to eat.
So let’s say a person with a poor diet lacking in fibre send them his poo and they find out that the microbiome lacks large variety of bacteria.
Then the recommendation will probably be; eat oats instead of coco pops for breakfast.
Now is this personalised nutrition?
Other tests that are offered as a way of establishing what you should eat is Glucose testing.
How can Glucose testing be relevant to your nutrition. You walk around all day with a glucose monitor and watch your Glucose spikes.
The only people really who need to monitor their Glucose spikes are typ 1 diabetic Glucose spikes are not in any way form or shape going to personalise your nutrition.
Obviously if you drink 15 cans of Coca Cola a day you will have a bit too many insulin spikes and your health and well being will suffer as a result.
Personalised nutrition is definitely something that will be a thing of the future. When better ways of testing are available.
But as of now it is really just science fiction.
By Abdi-Karim Berleen/Personal trainer in Loughton